Serbia in Light and Darkness - With Preface by the Archbishop of Canterbury, (1916)
by Nikolaj Velimirovic
1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse












The aim of this volume is to give to the English-speaking people some glimpses into the past struggles, sufferings and hopes of the Serbian nation. I have tried to describe the Serbian life in light, in its peace, its peaceful work, its songs and prayers; in darkness, in its slavery, its sins, its resistance to evil and battle for freedom.

It is only the peoples which suffer themselves that can understand and sympathise deeply with the Serbian soul. I dedicate, therefore, the following pages to all those who suffer much in these times, and whose understandings are enlarged and human sympathies deepened by sufferings.

I will take this opportunity of expressing my warm and respectful thanks to His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury for his kind assistance and generous commendation of my work in England.

My gratitude is due to the Rev. G.K.A. Bell and Dr. E. Marion Cox for their help in the revision of these pages.


London, April, 1916.

















The presence of Father Nicholai Velimirovic in England during the last few months has brought to the many circles with which he has been in touch a new message and appeal enforced by a personality evoking an appreciation which glows more warmly the better he is known. But this little book is more than the revelation of a personality. It will be to many people the introduction to a new range of interest and of thought. He would be a bold man who would endeavour at present to limit or even to define what may be the place which the Serbia of coming years may hold in Eastern Europe as a link between peoples who have been widely sundered and between forces both religious and secular which for their right understanding have needed an interpreter. Of recent days the sculpture and the literature of Serbia have been brought to our doors, and England's admiration for both has drawn the two countries more closely together in a common struggle for the ideals to which that art and literature have sought to give expression. It is not, I think, untrue to say that to the average English home this unveiling of Serbia has been an altogether new experience. Father Nicholai's book will help to give to the revelation a lasting place in their minds, their hopes and their prayers.


LAMBETH, Easter, 1916.




Delivered for the first time in the Chapter House of Canterbury Cathedral. Chairman: the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.



To come to Canterbury, to visit this Sion of the Church of England, that has been my dream since my fourteenth year, when I for the first time was told of what a spiritual work and of what an immortal glory this place has been the home. I dreamed a beautiful dream of hope to come here silently, to let every man, every house and every brick of the houses silently teach me, and, after having learned many fair and useful things, to return silently and thankfully home. Unfortunately I cannot now be a silent and contemplative pupil in this place, as I desired to be, but I must speak, forced by the time in which we are living and suffering. I will speak in order not to teach you, but to thank you. And I have to thank you much in the name of the Serbian nation and in my own name.

I thank you that you are so mindful of Serbia, of a poor and suffering country that failed so much in many respects, but never failed in admiration of the English character and civilisation. From central European civilisation we received a small light and a great shadow. From English civilisation we got—I dare say it—the light only. There is no doubt that English civilisation, being a great light, must have its shadow also, but our eyes, blinded by the great light, did not see the dark side of this light.

I thank you that you gave us Shakespeare, who is the second Bible for the world; and Milton the divine, and Newton and Herschel, the friends of the stars; and Wellington and Nelson, the fearless conquerors of the ambitious tyrant of the world; and Stephenson, the great inventor of the railway and the great annihilator of distance between man and man; and Carlyle, the enthusiastic apostle of work and hope; and Dickens, the advocate of the humble and poor; and Darwin, the ingenious revealer of brotherly unity of man and nature; and Ruskin, the splendid interpreter of beauty and truth; and Gladstone, the most accomplished type of a humane statesman; and Bishop Westcott and Cardinal Newman, the illuminated brains and warm hearts. No, I never will finish if I undertake to enumerate all the illustrious names which are known in Serbia as well as in England, and which would be preserved in their integrity in Serbia even if this island should sink under the waters.

I have to thank you for many sacrifices that the people of this country have made for Serbia during the present world-struggle. Many of the English nurses and doctors died in Serbia in trying courageously to save Serbian lives in the time of typhus-devastation. They lost their own lives saving ours, and I hope in losing their lives for their suffering neighbours they have found better ones. Their work will never be forgotten and their tombs will be respected as relics among us Serbs. Besides, Great Britain also sent military help for Serbia. It was dictated to Great Britain by the highest strategic reasons to send troops to Serbia, to the Danube, in order to stop the Germans there, to hinder their junction with the Bulgars, to annihilate all their plans and dreams regarding the East, to defend Serbia not only as Serbia, but as the gate of Egypt and India, and so to protect in the proper place and in the most efficacious manner her oriental Dominions. But seemingly England sent her troops to Serbia more to protect her honour than her Dominions, more to help Serbia than to defend Egypt and India. The number of these troops and the time when they arrived in Serbia indicate that. Hundreds of miles the Serbs had been driven back by the enemy before the British forces reached the Serbo-Greek frontier. But still they reached the Serbian land, they fought on Serbian soil and shed their noble blood defending that soil. Serbia will rather forget herself than the English lives sacrificed for her in such a catastrophic moment of her history.

England is THE GREATEST EMPIRE OF THE WORLD, not only at the present time, but since the beginning of human history. Neither the artificial combination of Alexander of Macedonia nor the ancient Roman Empire, neither Spain of Charles V. nor Napoleon's ephemeral dominion were nearly so great as the British Empire of to-day. Never has a nation possessed so much sea and so much land as the British. This wonderful Empire includes people of every race, countries of every climate, human societies of every degree of civilisation, almost all kinds of minerals, plants and animals, lakes and rivers, mountains and forests. The most ancient civilisations of Egypt, India and the Mediterranean Islands are brought together in conjunction under the same rule as the new worlds, like South Africa, Canada and Australasia. The communication between the zones of the everlasting snow and those of the everlasting hot sun is established in perfection. The countries and peoples which were for thousands of years in contact with each other only through dreams are now in real contact through business, trade, science, art, and through common sufferings and hopes.

Still it might be asked: Has such a great body indeed an aim? Short-sighted people, who are ready at once with a reply on any question, will say: The only aim of this great Empire is the exploitation of every country and every body by the English with the pretext of civilisation. So may think some English too. What can we say about THE AIM OF THE GREATEST EMPIRE? The truth is that the real aim of this Empire is larger than the selfishness of any person or of any nation. The real aim is:

First, to exchange the material products of the countries, and so to create a greater comfort for the people that live in them. In the wildest islands in the Pacific you can find—I will mention only little things—the same fine sofas, fireplaces, draperies, modern kitchens, piano and library, electric light and cablegrams, as in London. And in foggy and smoky London you can have all the African fruits, Australian wine and wool, Canadian metals and wood, Indian beasts and African ivory.

Second, to exchange the spiritual good of races and nations. The wisdom of the world is not concentrated in the brains of any single nation. Every nation has some original experiences of its own about this life. The Eskimos have certainly something new to say to the people from the plains of the Ganges and the Nile. And these people, these descendants, of Buddha and Rameses, as well as the descendants of Moses and Hamurrabai, have things to say that never were thought possible in the countries of perpetual snow and ice in Northern Canada. Such is of the greatest profit for science, religion, ethics, sociology, art. Darwin and Spencer, with their immense scientific experiences, were possible only in such a world-Empire as the English. The words of Tagore, the Indian thinker, can be heard to-day without great delay on the Atlantic and Pacific, as well as in India. When a genius is born in New Zealand his message reaches the world, and his glory cannot be concealed in the southern hemisphere.

Third: this Empire is an experiment in the realisation of human brotherhood. I repeat, through the medium of this Empire man is brought near to man, and nation to nation, and race to race. It was very difficult in the ancient Roman Empire to become civis Romanus, because this Empire was founded upon the Pagan philosophy of lords and servants. It is, on the contrary, very easy in the British Empire of to-day to become a British citizen, because the British Empire is founded upon the Christian philosophy of democratic equality and brotherhood. All is not accomplished, but I say it is an experiment, and a good one; a prophecy, and a hopeful one.

Fourth: Great Britain is destined by Providence to be a great educator of nations. That is her part in history. She has democracy and tradition—two things that are considered everywhere as incongruous—and therefore she is capable of understanding everybody and of teaching and leading everybody. She is the nurse for the sick people of the East; she is the schoolmaster for the rough people of the wild isolated islands; she is the tamer of the cannibals and the guide of the civilised; she inspires, vivifies, unites and guides; she equalises; she Christianises.

I read the other day a German menacing song:

We are going, we are going to see Who will henceforth govern the world— England or God?

I can say certainly—God. He will govern the world. But we can say to-day, though in due humility: Gesta Dei per Britannos. Would you know assuredly through which of the powerful nations God is working to-day? Ask only which of these nations is most the champion of the rights of the small and poor nations, and you will find out the truth. For from the beginning of the world-history all the leading religions and philosophies called the great and powerful to protect the poor and powerless. The record of this recommendation belongs doubtless to the Christian religion. The suggestion of all the religions was like this: it is impossible to be proud and selfish under the eyes of God. The suggestion of the Christian religion is: Under the eyes of God the more you have the more you must give, and the more you give the more you have; and if you even give your life for men, you will find a better life in God.


If we Serbs look upon the English power on this planet, and then look and see our own less than modest place on the globe, we must unwillingly exclaim in the words of the Psalmist: O Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him?—or with a little change: O England, what is Serbia, that thou art mindful of her? And the poor sons of Serbia, that thou visitest them?

A small strip of land with five million inhabitants and without seaboard. A peasant people devoted to agriculture and to nature, to the forest and cattle, to songs and tales. A past full of glory, of blood and sins. A present full of tears, pains and hopes. A king carried on a stretcher through the rocky desert of Albania,—a loyal parliament which refused to make a separate peace with the enemy even in the darkest hour of national tragedy,—an honest government which did everything possible to save the country, and which, when the country was nearly conquered, exclaimed through its President: "It is better to die in beauty than to live in shame!"—a fearless army, which for three years only knew victory, now watching in snow on the mountains of Montenegro and Albania, and lodging in the dens of wolves and eagles.[1] Another army of old men, of women and children, fleeing away from death and rushing to death. Shall I say that is Serbia?

No: that is only a part of Serbia.

You have heard talk of Greater Serbia. I personally think that Serbia can never be greater than in this solemn hour of her supreme suffering, in which all the civilised world in both hemispheres trembles because of her catastrophe and sympathises with her. I personally love my little country just because it is so little; and just because its deeds are greater than its size. I am not sure that I should love it so much should it happen to become territorially so big as Spain or Italy. But I cannot help it; I must say that our Irridentists in Austro-Hungary are more numerous than our population in Serbia. Eight millions of our Serbo-Croat and Slovene brothers have been looking towards Serbia as towards their Piedmont, waiting their salvation from Serbia, as Alsace-Lorraine is waiting its salvation from France, and being proud of Serbia as all slaves are proud of their free kinsmen. All the slaves from Isonzo to Scutari are groaning under the yoke of an inhuman Austro-Magyar regime, and are singing of Serbia as their redeemer from chains and shame. Little Serbia has been conscious of her great historic task, to liberate and unite all the Southern-Slavs in one independent being; therefore she, with supreme effort, collected all her forces to fulfil her task and her duty, and so to respond to the vital hopes of her brethren.

Shall I say that is Serbia?

No; that is only physical Serbia.

But there is a soul of Serbia.

For five hundred years the Serbian soul suffered and believed. Suffering sometimes breaks the belief. But the Serbian suffering strengthened the belief of the Serbian people. With belief came hope, with hope strength; and so the Serbs endured the hardest and darkest slavery ever recorded in history, not so much by their physical strength as by the strength of their soul. Besides, it was a great temptation for the Serbs to abandon the Christian faith and to accept the faith of the Crescent. Under this condition only, the Turks promised freedom to the Serbs and equal rights. Several of the aristocratic families could not resist this temptation and became renegade to the faith of their ancestors in order to save their lives. But the mass of the people fearlessly continued to be faithful to the belief in the Cross.

Allow me to give you only a few examples of the


in the time when the Serbian body was in chains. Although the Serbian body was enslaved, the Serbian soul was still free and active. Here are some proverbs made during the time of slavery and abasement of the body:

It is better not to be born than to misuse life.

The sun sees everything and keeps silent; the foolish man knows nothing and still talks.

Why does God send suffering to the best of His children? Because the weak cannot endure it.

The tears of the weak are accusations of the strong; the tears of the poor are accusations of the rich; the tears of the righteous will be transformed into diamonds under the throne of God.

A king asks another king: How many people do you govern? But if God speaks to a king, he asks: How many people are you helping?

Even the dry leaves cry out when trodden on; why should not the trodden man cry out?

It is better to give life than to take life. If you give life, you do what God does; if you take life, you do what Satan does.

Some men are better than others, but there is no man so good as God and no one so bad as the devil.

Some people are dressed in silk and satin, and others are dressed in rags. Very often that is the only difference between man and man.

There is a great difference between a learned man and a good man. The learned man can do good, but the good man will do good. The learned man can build the world up, but can destroy it too; the good man can only build it up.

A man's judgment lasts as long as a man's life, but God's judgment lasts as long as God.

It is better to dress the soul in silk and the body in rags than the reverse.

If life does not mean work, then life is worth nothing.

Work and virtue are sisters, as well as idleness and vice.

Work and prayer are two eyes on the same face. The man who works only, without praying, has one eye only; and the man who prays without working only has one eye too. The man who neither works nor prays has no eyes, and walks in darkness.

Neither be boastful of life nor fearful of death. Death is conditioned by life, and life by death.

You can kill me, but my son will live; you can kill my son, but my soul will live.

The Kingdom of God is coming as quietly as the moonlight, and it will come fully when men learn not to live in convulsions and not to die in convulsions.

There are only two nations upon the earth: that which weeps and that which laughs.

Now I would like to indicate slightly what The English Political Interests in Serbia are. Little as she may seem, democratic Serbia is still the greatest moral factor in the big Slav world. She is admired by other subjugated Slavs because she succeeded without anybody's help in freeing herself. She is envied by all other Slavs, from near and from far, as well as from other neighbouring nations, because of her nearly perfect democracy. Serbia is the only democratic state among the four independent Slav states (Russia, Montenegro, Bulgaria). And just in this terrible war it became clear to all the world that Serbia was the only democratic state in the Near East. Turkey is governed by an oligarchy, Bulgaria by a German despot, Greece by a wilful king whose patriotism is overshadowed by his nepotism, Roumania is ruled more by the wish of the landlords (boyars) and court than by the wish of the people. I will say nothing about the very profanation of democracy in the dark realm of the Hapsburgs.

Serbia not only means a democratic state, but a democratic nation; that is to say, that not only are the Serbian institutions (including the church also) democratic, but the spirit of the whole of the nation is democratic. After all, this democratic spirit of Serbia must be victorious in the Balkans as well as in the Slav world.

You know that England's glory has always been to stand as the champion of democracy. England's best interests in the Near East now more than ever imperatively require her to support democratic Serbia against her anti-democratic enemies. How different Serbia is from all her neighbours was clearly proved just by this war. She is alone in the Near East fighting on the side of the democratic England and France against Prussian militarism and autocracy. That does not happen accidentally, but because of the Serbian democratic spirit. This spirit is very attractive for all the Slavs who are under the Austro-Hungarian rule. Many of them are looking towards powerful Russia to liberate them (Poles, Bohemians, Ruthenes, Slovaks). Yet they do not wish only Freedom, but Freedom and Democracy together. Therefore they are looking with one eye towards Russian power and with another towards Serbian democracy. It is clear that the English victory over the Germans must have as the first consequence the liberation of all the slaves in Europe. In this case all the Southern Slav people in Austro-Hungary—Serbs, Croats and Slovenes—wish to be one unit with democratic Serbia, as it was formulated lately by the Southern-Slav Committee in London, and all the others—Poles, Bohemians, Ruthenes and Slovaks—wish to be like democratic Serbia. Consequently Serbia is a kernel, a nucleus of a greater Southern-Slav state, and at the same time the inspiring and revolutionising power for all the down-trodden Slavs. This kernel for five hundred years was the little, but never subjugated, Montenegro, but lately the Piedmontal role has been transferred to Serbia.

The English political interest in the future Greater Serbia, or Yougoslavija, is of the first importance. The Southern-Slav state will number about fourteen millions of inhabitants. This state will be the very gate of the East. Yet Serbia is not only the nucleus of the united Southern Slavdom, but the very nucleus of a Balkan Federation also, in which the Greco-Roumanian element should be a good balance to the Slav element in it. I repeat I like my little country just because it is so comparatively little. But by necessity it is to become much larger. By necessity the whole of the Serbian race is to be freed and united. By necessity the Southern-Slav state and the Balkan Federation are to be realised. Some of our neighbours may be against that, but all their opposing effort will be in vain. Every intrigue against the Serbian ideals of freedom and unity cannot effect a suppression, but only a short prolongation of the period of its realisation. Behold, the time has come, the fruit has grown ripe. All the Serbian race has now been plunged into slavery. United to-day in slavery, they have now only one wish—to be united to-morrow in Freedom.

England is bound to Russia more by a political or military treaty, but she is bound to Serbia, and through Serbia with all other democratic Slav worlds more by spirit—just by this democratic spirit. This spirit which divides the Slav world into two different camps, unites England with one of them,—with the democratic camp, the champion of which has been Serbia. A very curious spirit dwells in the little Serbian body, a very curious and great spirit, which will, I am sure, give form to the future Balkans as well as to the future democratic Slavdom. And be sure this spirit is rather panhumanistic than panslavistic.

But after all, when I think of 400 million inhabitants of the British Empire and remember such a poor topic, as my country, about which I am just speaking, I must cry again: England, what is Serbia, that thou art mindful of her? And the poor sons of Serbia, that thou visitest them?

Still, Serbia is an admirer and friend of England, and that is a good reason why England should look sympathetically towards little Serbia. There is a Serbian proverb: "A wise lion seeks friends not only among the lions, but among the bees too." Of course Serbia needs England much more than England needs Serbia. I will not now dwell upon Serbia's material needs; I will tell you about what are Serbia's spiritual needs.

To begin with the children, the Serbian children need good education. Our schools give more knowledge than strength of character and a humane cultivated will. Our national poetry and history have educated our people much better than modern science did. Still we perceive that science is necessary for a good education in our times. Therefore we very much need to consult England in this respect. We well know how English education is estimated all over the world. England can help us much to educate the new Serbian generations in the best way, because such a country as Serbia deserves indeed a noble and worthy future in which to live. Don't you agree with me? Only I am afraid that I am speaking of the best education of the Serbian children just at this moment when it were perhaps more suitable to speak about the best way to save them from hunger, pain and death.

The Serbian women need to develop their capacities more for social work, so as to take a more important part in the organisation and cultivation of their lives. The past of our women consisted in singing, weaving and weeping. I am sure that the English women, whose sympathy for Serbia in these tragic days will remain memorable for ever,—I am sure that after this war they will come to Serbia and help their poor sisters over there, teaching them and enlightening them. Yet I am again afraid to dwell longer upon the topic of the enlightenment of the Serbian mothers at the very moment when those mothers with their sons and daughters, trodden down by the Prussian boot, look towards Heaven and silently confess their sins, preparing themselves for a cruel death.

What do the Serbian men need? They need civilisation, or in other words: the Bible, science, art. But they do not need the Bible of killing from Germany, nor the science of killing and the art of killing from Germany. They do not want the civilisation which means the large and skilful manufacture of instruments of killing. They want the Bible which makes good, and science which makes bright, and art which makes godlike. Therefore the men of Serbia are now looking so eagerly towards England and her civilisation. More English civilisation in our country, more England in Serbia—that is our great spiritual need!

My illustrious chairman, the Most Reverend Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote recently in one of his books: "We are everywhere trying in these later years to understand and to alleviate human sorrow." [2] Yes, you are. We Serbians feel your sorrows too. "To understand and to alleviate human sorrow." That is the divine purpose of a humane civilisation. That is the final aim of our terrestrial education—to understand each other, and to support each other.

Do you think that it is difficult for a rich nation as well as for a rich man to come into the kingdom of Heaven? I am a little embarrassed seeing rich England now coming into this kingdom. Yet she is coming into the kingdom of God, not because she is rich, but because she being powerful humiliated herself, took the cross and went to suffer for the poor and sorely stricken in this world. She humiliated herself going to support Belgium; she humiliates herself hurrying to support Serbia; she humiliates herself mourning so much for Armenia. But her humiliation is the best proof of her true Christianity, as her fighting and suffering of to-day is the very fighting and suffering for Christianity. Do not be afraid of humiliation, citizens of the greatest Empire of the world; behold, the humiliation is the very condition of real glory and real greatness! For more than a thousand years, from this place has been preached the Only Son of God, whose way to Glory, Greatness and Divinity was through painful humiliation.

Do persist and do not weary in this way,—it will bring your dear country nearer to God. Do persist in humiliation,—it will be the most durable foundation of a glorious young England. Do persist in supporting oppressed and poor Serbia,—it will be rewarded hundredfold to your children and to the children of your children. Do persist in doing good, that is my final word to you, my enlightened brethren and sisters. And when I say do persist in good, I repeat only what for nine hundred years has been preached within these walls by thousands and thousands of servants of Christ, either well-known or unknown, but all more worthy than I am.


Delivered for the first time in the Church of the Holy Trinity, Stroud Green, London.

I was a citizen of a small country called Serbia, and I am still a citizen of a great country called The Universe. In my first fatherland there is now no other light except the brightness of tears. But in my second fatherland there is always the splendid and silent light of the sun. My little country is now a great tear-drop, a shining and silent tear-drop. A gentleman from South Africa wrote to me the other day and asked about my country—"why it is so shining"? I replied: Just because it is now transformed into a big tear-drop, therefore it is so shining that even you from South Africa can see its splendour. I come as an echo of the weeping splendour of my country which is now plunged into the worst slavery. I come as a voice beyond the grave to your famous island, brethren and sisters, not to accuse, not to complain, but to say by what invisible bonds my country is tied to yours. I will say at once, plainly and simply—by common beliefs and common hopes.

At the time when Saint Patrick preached Christ's Gospel in heathen Ireland, the Serbs were heathen as well. Their gods, with Perun at the head, corresponded to Wothan and his divine colleagues, whose names are recalled in your names of the days of the week still.

About the time when Saint Augustine came over here, met Queen Bertha and baptised King Ethelbert in Saint Martin's Church in Canterbury, the conversion of the heathen Serbs had made good progress.

In the time of Alfred the Great, who was "the most complete embodiment of all that is great, all that is lovable in the English temper," as an English historian praises him so justly, the Serbs received God's word in their own language from the Slav apostles, Cyril and Methodius, and soon afterwards the Christian faith was officially introduced and established among them.

In the time of the Conquest, when the Norman and Danish kings disputed the possession of England, the Serbian provinces were fought over by the Greek, Bulgar and Avar rulers. But the belief in Christ grew more and more uninterruptedly.

When Richard the Lion-hearted sailed from England to the Holy Land, not to fight for the national existence, as we to-day speak of it, but to fight for the most unselfish and idealistic aim, for Cross and Christian Freedom, Serbia was already opening a great epoch of physical as well as spiritual strength. Our king Nemanja, the founder of a dynasty which ruled in Serbia for nearly 300 years, had heard tales and songs about the English king with the lion's heart, and had helped the same cause, the cause of the Crusades, very much. His son, Saint Sava, organised the Christian Church wonderfully, and wonderfully he inspired the educational and scholarly work in the state created by his father. This Saint Sava, the Archbishop of Serbia, after he had travelled all over Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria, preaching the Gospel of the Son of God, died in Bulgaria. His body was transferred to and buried in a monastery in Herzegovina. Afterwards, in times of national hardships and slavery, great pilgrimages took place to the grave of the Saint, which became the comforting and inspiring centre for the oppressed nation; the Turks destroyed the tomb, carried the body over to Belgrade and burnt it, in order to lessen the Serbian national and religious enthusiasm. The result was just the contrary. On the very same place where Saint Sava's body was burnt there is now a Saint Sava's chapel; close to this chapel a new Saint Sava's seminary is to be erected, and also Saint Sava's cathedral of Belgrade. And over all there is an acknowledged protection of Saint Sava by all the Serbian churches and schools, and a unifying spirit of Saint Sava for all the Serbian nation.

Saint Sava's belief was the same as the belief of Saint Patrick and Saint Augustine. His hopes were the same as theirs too. He believed in the one saving Gospel of Christ, as they did. He hoped men could be educated by this divine Gospel, to be heroic in suffering and pure and holy in the enjoyments of life, just as the great saints of this island doubtless hoped and worked.


represented almost throughout our history the model of the true religious spirit and of the hopeful optimism of the nation. That can be said especially for the kings since Saint Sava's time until the definite conquest of Serbia by the Sultans, i.e. since Richard and John's time until the time of the Black Prince and Wycliffe, and from the Black Prince and Wycliffe till the end of the Wars of the Roses in England. Our kings did what all the kings in the world do; they fought and ruled, they ate and drank, and danced and played, and still the majority of them took monastic vows and died in solitude and asceticism, and a great part of them were recognised by the people as saints and invoked by the oppressed in the dark times as the advocates of national justice, before God. They built beautiful churches and monasteries in the towns and forests. They strove always to build the "Houses of God" more solid and more costly than their own houses. Their castles and palaces they built to their own glory, and their pleasures no longer exist, but the churches they built to the glory of God still exist. In these churches our pious kings of old prayed; in these churches afterwards our hard oppressed people wept during the time of slavery; in these "Houses of God" the fanatic Turks enclosed their cattle, their goats and sheep, their horses and donkeys, thus abasing and ridiculing our sanctuaries. But the more these sanctuaries have been abased and ridiculed by the enemy, the more they have been respected and adored by the people.

We Serbs cannot complain that our Middle Ages were as dark as the people in Europe are accustomed to represent their own. During the three hundred years of the reign of Neniania's dynasty not one of our kings was killed. The importance of this fact only the historian can understand who knows well the history of our neighbours, the Byzantines and Venetians of that time, who in many other respects had been our teachers. We learnt many useful as well as perilous things from them, but we did not learn their art of poisoning kings, of torturing them, suffocating them, making them blind, cutting out their tongues, etc. It is only in modern times that we committed the great sins of the Middle Ages, namely, killing our kings and making civil wars. During the last hundred years we killed only three of our kings: Karageorge, Michael and Alexander. In modern times three have been killed in a hundred years, and in the Middle Ages not one in three hundred years!—a fact as unusual as curious. But you should remember that our modern times in Serbia began after five hundred years of a bloody slavery and dark education under Turkish tyranny.

I mention our great sins not in order to excuse but to accuse my people. I will not even accuse the Turks, our rulers and educators during five hundred years. Our ancestors were accustomed to see human blood spilt every day. They were accustomed to hear about strangled sultans and viziers and pashas. And, besides, they lived through the record of all the crimes ever written in history; the Turks arranged a horrible bloody bath in executing their plan of killing all the leaders and priests among the Serbs! It happened only a hundred years ago, in the lifetime of Chateaubriand and Wordsworth, in the time of Pitt and Burke, in the time of your strenuous mission work among the cannibals. Our ancestors lived in blood and walked in blood. Our five hundred years' long slavery had only two colours—red and black.

And yet I will not accuse the Turks but ourselves. Neither our kings of old, nor our ancestors before the enslavement set us the example of killing kings. Rather the strangers that conquered and ruled our country set us such an example. But it is our fault for having followed an abominable example like that. I confess our sins before you, and pray: Forgive us, good brothers! Forgive us, if you can. God will not forgive us. That is the belief of our people. God is merciful, but still He does not forgive without punishment. God is righteous and sinless, and therefore He has right to punish every sin of man. But it were a monstrous pretension for men to punish every sin, being themselves sinful, very sinful. We will forgive all your mediaeval, if you will forgive us our modern sins. Remember! God will begin to "forgive us our trespasses" only at the moment when we all forgive the trespasses of all those that have sinned against us. He will forgive us then, because He will not have anything more to punish. God's mercilessness begins when our mercifulness ends. God will rule the world by justice as long as we rule it by our mercilessness. He will rule the world by mercifulness when we forgive each other, but not before.

To forgive the sins of men means for us nothing more than to confess our own sins. To forgive the sins of men means for God nothing less than to let the events be without consequences. And it contradicts human experiences or science.

It contradicts also the experiences of our kings of old. They saw and heard of the sins punished, and they feared sin. They regarded humility and mercifulness as the greatest virtues. On the day of the "Slava," which means a special Serbian festival of the saint patron of the family (every Serbian family has its patron among the saints or angels which it celebrates solemnly every year, instead of celebrating their own birthdays), on this day our kings themselves served their guests at the table. It was a visible sign of their humility before the divine powers that rule human life. Besides, on every festive occasion in the royal court was placed a bountiful table with meat and drink for beggars and the most abject poor. The king was obliged by his Christian conscience and even by national tradition to be merciful. How the people regarded the kings is clear from popular sayings like these:

Every king is from God. If a king is generous he is from God, as a king should be from God. If a king is narrow and selfish he is from God, as a monkey is from God.

A wise king speaks three times to God and only once to the people. A foolish king speaks three times to the people and only once to God.

Speaking to God a wise king thinks always of his people, and speaking to the people he always thinks of God. A foolish king thinks of himself always, whether he speaks to God or to the people.

Every king has a crown, but every kingly crown stands not on a kingly head.

A gipsy asked a king: Of how much value are your riches? The king replied: Not more than your freedom.

The smile of the king is medicine for a poor man, the laugh of the king is an offence for the mourning one.

A king who fears God has pity for the people, but a king who fears the people has pity for himself.

The face of a good king lends splendour to his crown, and the crown of a bad king lends splendour to his face.

The sins of the people can only sooner bring the king before God, but the sins of the king can push the people to Satan's house.

The belief of our kings was the same belief which Saint Sava preached, their hopes were his hopes. God is the eternal and powerful king of the world; Christ is the way of salvation from sin; good must be in the end victorious over evil. That was the belief and hope of our kings. Was it not likewise the belief and hope of King Ethelbert, of Saint Oswald and Edward the Confessor? Did not Richard the Lion-hearted struggle for the same belief and hope in Palestine, which was at his time as far as a voyage around this planet to-day? Is not this same belief and hope the corner stone of Westminster Abbey and Saint Paul's, of this church and of every church on this island, and of every great and beautiful deed that you inherited from your ancestors?

Yet the belief and hopes of our kings were never different from the


The Serbian people have shown their individuality only in the dark time of their slavery. The saint and the heroic kings died, but their souls lived still in the hearts of their people, in the white churches they built among the green mountains, in their deeds of mercifulness and repentance. The enslaved people were conscious that there were no more kings of their own who represented all that was the best in the Serbian soul, and that they, the people, have now themselves to represent the Serbian name, belief and hopes before God and their enemies. And they have done it.

At the time when Columbus sailed over the seas to find a new continent in the name of the most Christian King of Spain, the Serbian suffering for the Christian religion had already begun.

At the time when the famous English thinker Thomas More wrote Utopia, preaching brotherhood among men based upon religious and political freedom, the Serbs stood there without any shadow of religious and political freedom, dreaming of and singing about the human brotherhood founded only on the ruins of both tyranny and slavery.

At the time when the great Shakespeare wrote his tragedies in ink, the Serbs wrote theirs in blood.

At the time when Cromwell fought in the name of the Bible for the domestic freedom of Parliament, the Serbian leaders gathered in the lonely forests to tell each other of the crimes that they saw defiling the Cross, to confess to each other their cruel sufferings and to encourage each other to live.

At the time when Milton wrote Paradise Lost, the Serbs felt more than anybody in the world the loss of Paradise.

At the time when Livingstone went to dark Africa with the light of human civilisation, Serbia was ruled by darker powers even than Central Africa.

At the time when the great English philosopher Locke wrote his famous book on the education of men, the people of Serbia had no schools and no teachers at all; they educated themselves by the memories of the great deeds of the heroes of the past, by looking at their kings' churches, and by glorifying a death for justice and a life of suffering.

At the time when Adam Smith wrote his famous work, The Wealth of Nations, the Serbian nation possessed only one form of wealth, and that was the inward wealth of the glorious inheritance of strong belief and of bright hopes. All other forms of wealth that it saw around in the large world, including its own physical life, belonged not to it but to its enemies.

At the time when your learned priests and bishops discussed the subtle theological questions of the relations between time and eternity, between justice and forgiveness, between the Son and the Holy Ghost, between transcendence and omnipresence, our priests and patriarchs had to defend the religion of the Cross from the aggressive Crescent, and to protect the lives of the oppressed, and to lead and inspire the souls of their flock. I think both your and our priests did their duty according to the time and circumstances under which they lived and worked.


has been our national motto. It is written on our flag and in the hearts of each of us. Our motto never was "For existence" or "For vital interests." That was an unknown form of language to our kings of old, and that is still a language very strange for our ears to hear to-day. We never fought indeed solely for a poor existence in this world. We fought always rather for the ideal contentment of this terrestrial existence. We fought not for life only, but for what makes one's life worth living—"For Cross and Freedom!"

The Cross is mentioned first, and then Freedom. Why?

Because the Cross of Christ is the condition of a real freedom. Or, because the Cross is for God's sake and our freedom is for our sake. We should fight for God's sake first and then for our own. That was the idea. Or, because Cross and Freedom are two words for the same thing. The religion of the Cross involves Freedom, and real Freedom is to be found only in the religion of the Cross.

"For Cross and Freedom!"

A Serbian proverb says:

The Cross shines better in the heart and the Crescent in the hand.


Why are there so many Mohammedans in the world? Because the Crescent pays every day during life to its followers, and the Cross pays only after death.

Have confidence in Christ and follow him even into the house of the Devil, because He knows the way out.

Twelve poor apostles did more good to man than the twelve richest sultans.

In vain you will ask from God any good without suffering. For suffering is the very heart of every good, of glory, and of pleasure as well.

Every drop of Christ's innocent blood must be paid for by a lake of men's blood.

It is better to die for the Cross than to live against the Cross.

When you fight for Freedom you are helping every slave in the world, not only yourself.

Freedom is an atmosphere which makes the sun brighter, and the air clearer, and the honey sweeter.

To die for the Cross and Freedom means two lives and no death.

A wolf never can so badly enslave a fellow-wolf as a man can enslave a fellow-man.

It is not easier to live in freedom than to fight for freedom. One must fight for freedom as an archangel, but one must live in freedom as a saint.

All men that God created can live on the earth. God gave space and air enough for all, if men only would give goodwill.

When you pass the tomb of a man who died for Cross and Freedom, you should bow your head low; and when you pass the palace of a man who lives for wealth and pleasure, only turn your head the other way.

I observed during this world-struggle the conduct, deeds and words of our Serbian neighbours, and I was in the end both very sorry and very glad. I was very sorry as I read the declaration of a Bulgarian statesman: "We Bulgars must be on the side of the victors." I was very glad remembering that never in the whole Serbian history have such words been uttered by a responsible person. Our kings of old said very often that Serbia must fight on the side of justice, even if justice has for the moment no visible chance to be victorious. Our saint King, Lazare, refused on the eve of the battle of Kossovo to negotiate with the Turkish Sultan, whom he regarded as a bearer of injustice and an enemy of Christianity.

I was very sorry to see that Greece broke her pledged word and thoughtlessly refused to keep her treaty with Serbia, whereas France with England, who had no signed treaty with Serbia, came and did what in the first place it was Greece's duty to do. I was still more glad and hopeful in regard to the future of mankind, seeing a great difference of moral views between the leading nations of human civilisation like the English and French, and a small nation like the Greek, which is commencing to learn again what many hundred years ago Greece taught all other nations. And I was very glad remembering that in our own Serbian history there is no case of such an example of infidelity or even of hesitation to fulfil the pledged word of the nation.

In this respect the Serbian women excelled as well as men. Therefore, and because I am speaking before you, brothers and sisters, whose country may be proud not only of a large number of great men of every kind, but of great and famous women as well, I must mention the memorable qualities of the Serbian women in the long fight for Cross and Freedom. What sacrifices for Cross and Freedom the Serbian women have made cannot be enumerated from this pulpit, but only slightly touched upon in a few examples. I take just three splendid names: Miliza, Yerina and Ljubiza.

Queen Miliza was a lady of a peaceful domestic character. But she was also the wife of the most tragic king in our Serbian history, of King Lazare, who perished with all his army on the field of Kossovo fighting for Cross and Freedom against Islam rushing over Europe.

She had nine brothers—nine brothers and a father. All were killed on Kossovo together with King Lazare, and Miliza survived that catastrophe.

After the death of King Lazare, Queen Miliza ruled the country together with her son, Stephen the Tall. But Sultan Bayazet asked three things from the new rulers in Serbia. Firstly, he asked for Miliza's daughter Mara for his harem. Miliza gave her daughter. Then Bayazet asked a second, more dreadful thing, namely, that his unfortunate mother-in-law should build a mosque in Krushevaz, the Serbian capital at that time, so as to have a place where he could pray when he came to visit her. There existed and still exists a beautiful church built by King Lazare. Now Miliza was constrained to build, close to this dear monument of her husband, in which she prayed every day for his soul and for the salvation of Serbia, a Turkish mosque. She agreed silently and she protested silently. Then Bayazet asked a third still more dreadful thing, namely, that Stephen the Tall should help him with his troops in a time of danger for the Turkish Empire. Queen Miliza with a broken heart advised her son to sign such a treaty in order to save the rest of the State and people. But very soon it happened that Bayazet needed and asked for Stephen's help against the formidable Mongol conqueror Tamerlan. Stephen hated both the Asiatic monsters—Bayazet and Tamerlan—equally, and it was more profitable for him to break the treaty with Bayazet and to help Tamerlan, who had more chance. But he remained faithful to his pledged word. Bayazet was beaten, taken prisoner and encaged as a beast by Tamerlan. And Stephen, after having fought splendidly for his ally with the Serbian cavalry, came home. When thinking over the present conduct of our Greek ally, I am reminded very often of this noble and loyal king of my country. Queen Miliza could not endure any longer all the terrible changes from bad to worse; she transferred all the power to her son, built a wonderful monastery, Ljubostinja, near Krushevaz, where she as a nun found a retreat in which to pray and to live, until the end of her weary and melancholy life.

Queen Yerina was the last Serbian ruler in the country, which slowly sank into slavery. She was very intelligent and very energetic. The Turkish Sultan took two sons of hers as hostages. She gave them up, and she continued to rule the country. But both of her sons were blinded by red-hot irons and sent back to their mother. Even this did not break Yerina's energy. She constructed great fortresses all over the country to protect the people from the enemy's invasion. She never had any rest, thinking and working to save Serbia. She offered the most obstinate resistance to the Turks as well as to the discontented faction among the Serbs. Many of her contemporaries were ungrateful to her and called her the "cursed Yerina," but still posterity bestows upon her great admiration and sympathy.

Princess Ljubiza came on the scene of our history only a hundred years ago, in the days of the Serbian revolution and resurrection. As Queen Miliza and Yerina sacrificed all to save the honour of Serbia, so Ljubiza did her best to help her husband, Prince Milosh, to liberate the country from the Turks. Once after the Second Revolution broke out, the Serbian troops were engaged in a bloody battle on Morava River. But the Turks were in an overwhelming majority, besides that they had better arms and more munitions. The frightened Serbian troops fled. Ljubiza saw that the situation was quite decisive for the whole future, ran to meet the soldiers, and to admonish them to go back and fight.

"What wretched soldiers you are!" she cried. "Are not the Turks made of flesh and blood as you? Cannot their blood be shed as yours? Whither are you running? Home? But we women only are at home. Well, come home, take our distaff and spin, and give us your rifles; we will go and fight."

The soldiers were so ashamed and encouraged by this remarkable woman that they turned back and began to fight anew so fiercely that the enemy was confusedly beaten and dispersed, and a decisive victory won by the Serbs.

For Cross and Freedom fought the Serbian women directly or indirectly, not only the queens and princesses, but all the peasant women as well, if not otherwise, then at least in giving life and education to the fighters, whom powerful England repeatedly called her worthy allies.


not for existence, not for sea, not for wealth, but for Cross and Freedom, for the Christian Cross and for the Freedom of the smaller nations. It means in other words: for God's cause. For who created the small nations if not He that created all great and small things in this wonderful world? Or who has the divine right and sad duty to exterminate, to suffocate, to enchain, the small creations of the Highest if the Highest wants them to exist? Great Britain justified her greatness by entering this war so as to protest against the violation of right, even by those who agreed to this right, and to protect the small and poor. It is easy to be physically great, but it is difficult to be morally great.

Great is the power which violates the right, still greater is the power which protects the right. To destroy is much easier than to build. To be great and to be proud means not to be great at all. To be great and to be modest means real greatness and belief in God. For who can be proud believing in God? Or who can feel God in this Universe and still say, I am great? Our modesty is only our confession that there is a God. Since we see both ends of our life—birth and death—so near us, we must be humiliated.

Yet who can see any end of God, either in the past or in the future? Where are all the greatest empires of the past? All is dust under the feet of the Eternal. Whither are we all going, great or small? To be dust under His feet. From this dust will survive only the small portion of God's spirit that dwells in this dust. All our thoughts and feelings, and deeds and strivings, and struggles and passions, which are directed towards dust will die together with our bodily dust. Only that portion of our being which is directed towards God will survive, will continue to live in the presence of God, will see God. For God only can see God.

Fighting for Belgium, for Serbia and Montenegro, for Armenia, Poland and Bohemia, for all the poor and oppressed—Great Britain is fighting for God's cause. For whose cause indeed is Belgium's and Serbia's, if not God's cause? I wonder who would protect all the oppressed in the world if not this country, in which God's word is more taught and learned than in any other, and which is endowed with all good gifts that God can give to mortals? Yet fighting for God's cause, one fights best for one's own. Yes, we fight always best for our own cause when we have it least in sight. England entered this war not after a long calculation; she entered the war spontaneously and only afterwards she put the question to herself: Why did I enter this war?

Now England is conscious why she entered the war. She knows now that somebody else pushed her into this Avar, and that she is fighting for somebody else's cause. This somebody else is—God. The sons of Great Britain going to the East to fight are going the same pathway as their ancestors went in the time of the Crusaders. The same way, the same aim: to save the honour of the Cross and to fight for Freedom! It is the pathway of supreme suffering, but also the only pathway of real glory and merit. Any other way for England's greatness was impossible. England had to choose either the way of pettiness or of greatness. She chose the second. God bless England!

We pray to Thee, our Father, in order not to change Thy will but ours. Thy will be done! If Serbia is an impediment to human civilisation and an evil, as our German brothers think, Father, make of Serbia a salt lake before they make of her a cemetery. Yet Thy will be done and not ours. We are thine in our righteousness and in our sins. What is, indeed, the whole of our planet? A small grain of dust. What are we, then, on this small grain of dust? We, men, either great or little? We, nations, rich or poor? We, the churches, either right or wrong? One word only I dare to say: the silence in Thy presence shall be our name, and our prayer. Even on the brightest and most peaceful day of our life, there is no true light except Thee. How much more we need Thy light in the darkness of the present moment! We are a small grain of dust under Thy throne, but remember, the only grain of dust which can consciously worship Thee. That shall be our only glory and pride among our brothers: animals, plants, and stones. But in worshipping Thee we become fellows of the stars. Lord, be our everlasting Sun and cast Thy light on every star, now and for ever. Amen.


Delivered for the first time at Cambridge, in the New Lecture Rooms, the Vice-Chancellor of the University in the chair.

The most suitable language for tragedy is silence. Serbia's tragedy needs no rhetoric, no language to describe it, to exalt it. For silence, and not rhetoric, makes tragedy greater. Serbia's silence to-day is as deep as her tragedy is dark. The most silent suffering is the most vocal suffering at the same time. The most silent suffering is like a screw boring into the conscience of the makers of the suffering. Such silent suffering is the severe judge of the world who makes all rich people poor, all proud humble, all pleasure bitter, all human progress abased. There is something wrong about this life. What may it be? I do not know, but suffering reminds us every day that there is something wrong with this world. Suffering from surrounding nature is not the worst,—nature can be governed by us; nor the suffering from God,—God can be touched by our prayer; but the worst of all is our suffering from ourselves. Thousands and thousands of serpents live in Serbia. Yet all the serpents throughout the Serbian history, from the time of the Druids on this island till the time of Tennyson and Kipling, effected not such a poisonous devastation of men and cattle in Serbia as lately a host of invaders did, who boastfully regarded themselves to be at the summit of human civilisation. It is despairing to see what use of her power, her "kultur," her science and her riches, Germany of to-day is making in Serbia, among a people who for half a thousand years struggled against the Turkish tyranny with the motto For Cross and Freedom, and who looked sometimes from their dark corner towards the German Kaiser, the knight of many Holy Orders, as towards the champion and redeemer of enslaved Christianity in the Balkans. Never suffered a nation from serpents as much as the poor nation of Serbs suffers to-day from "civilised" men. Don't you think indeed that there is something wrong about this life of ours? The Bible showed in its first sheets that there is something very wrong with us. By the killing of his brother, Cain fore-shadowed all the history of mankind. Even the first man on earth was not a balanced and happy creature. All our earthly time is filled up with a passionate convulsion in a struggle for life and light. Yet our confusion and unhappiness chiefly come from ourselves, and neither from nature nor from God. When will this suffering of man from man stop? We have been accustomed to speak hopefully about the twentieth century. We supposed that that century at least would show the serpents as greater enemies of men than men themselves. We see despairingly to-day that the serpents are innocent creatures in comparison with men. The tragedy of crushed and murdered Serbia is a crying proof of how the serpents are comparatively innocent creatures. Yet Serbia is silent in her tragedy. I myself would prefer to be silent too. But I cannot, being not only an unhappy survivor of a horrible shipwreck, but above all a priest and servant of God.

If our national pride bids us Serbs be silent in this shipwreck, my Christian honour and pride bids me cry out and protest. I am a surviving protest of my murdered country. Yet I am still a transitory protest, a protest only for a moment before God the Slow and the Righteous begins to protest Himself. My protest is in words, my words are from the air. But God's protest will be, as always, from the unquenchable fire, which burns bodies and souls. I indicate only the terrible protest which will come. Why am I protesting now before you, sons and daughters of Great Britain? Because you have been the champions of the Bible in the world, i.e. the champions of justice, freedom and the brotherhood of men. Because your knights have fought for the Christian Cross and Freedom. Your island has been an Island of Salvation for all the refugees, who as champions of liberty must escape from their own countries—among others, Rousseau, Voltaire and Victor Hugo, even the sons of a very liberal nation. Your most famous generals and admirals have humiliated the greatest conqueror of the world and granted him a cottage on a small island in which to live, instead of the world Empire of which he dreamed. Your statesmen—I will mention only a few of them: Pitt, Bright, Gladstone—asserted repeatedly that the domestic and foreign policy of this country should be founded on Christian principles. Your women are famous in the world because of the fine and humane education that they give to their children in order to make every new generation a new proof to the world of how this island is obviously worthy of its great role on our planet. Your working people possess a healthy sense of both reality and idealism, and avoiding all extremes and extravagances, to which poverty necessarily leads the working class in other countries, are powerfully promoting human progress, the material as well as the moral. Your nobility, far from being corrupted and degenerated by their wealth, have filled the world with astonishment from the beginning of this war by their extraordinary patriotism and willingness to sacrifice everything, including life itself, in the struggle for the honour and the unshakable ideals of their country.

That is why I am protesting before you, valiant sons and daughters of Great Britain, the heirs of the most valuable heritage that ever a nation could call its own. Serbian life in peace time is the most eloquent accusation and the mightiest protest against the crime of two great Christian Kaisers. These two Christian Kaisers conquered Serbia by their iron and mercilessness, and bound Serbia's throat so horribly that in Serbia there is now air and light only for the conquerors and not for the conquered. Breath-less and breadless, Serbia cannot protest, but I can. Well, I propose to describe to you to-night Serbia and the Serbians in peace time, in order to show you what life your smallest allies lived before the great storm came over their country. I will begin with:


Why? Because the village is the very foundation of all that we possess in material, spiritual and moral good. After the Turks conquered Serbia, five hundred years ago, the Serbian population was forced by the conquerors by degrees to abandon the towns and to retreat into the villages, and then to abandon even the villages in the plains, on the banks of the rivers, where the soil was the most fruitful, and to escape into the forests, mountains and less accessible country. The village thus became the very soil upon which has grown our democracy. That is the difference between our democracy and the west European, where the democrats movement started and developed in the towns. Driven into the forests and mountains by the common enemy, despoiled of freedom and riches the upper and lower classes, the learned and the illiterate, suffered the same abasement and injustice, did the same work, ploughed and sowed, struggled against the same evil, the Turkish yoke, and sang of the same hopes. Under such conditions was born our democratic spirit, which served wonderfully afterwards, in the time of liberation and freedom, as a base for our democratic institutions, social, political and ecclesiastical.

I said that our village is the very foundation of our material wealth. We have, so to say, no industry, but every one of our peasants has his own land. The land being fertile, our country never knew what hunger was. It was a pleasure to see the peasants in the spring ploughing their own soil; in the summer looking over the-golden harvest of their own; in the autumn contemplating the stores plenteously filled; in the winter feasting and resting in their own houses. If you should ask any of the Serbian peasants: "To whom does this house belong? or this field? or this harvest?" he would unmistakably reply: "To God and to me!"—so in the mind of our peasants God is the first landlord, and the second they themselves.

Even during the last three years of war in Serbia there was plenty of all the necessaries of life, especially of wheat and cattle, of fruits and hay, of vegetables and wood.

But now—in Serbia all the wealth is in the past; it exists only in the memories of the despoiled, plundered, devastated, starved and silent slaves. In the German papers there was published a private letter from a German soldier in Serbia. "We are very well here. We have plenty of food and everything. Much more abundantly than we had on the Western front!" I am sure you understand well what this soldier meant and whence such an abundance in food supply "and everything" for the German invaders in Serbia came. Almost simultaneously a German army commander wrote to a man in a neutral country these words: "Not only I permit you to come into Serbia and help the Serbs, but I pray you come at once. Among the population in Serbia there is the greatest misery and almost starvation en masse." What happened? The "civilised" subjects of Kaiser William would not kill the civil people in Serbia directly as the stupid Turks did, but indirectly in order to save the faithless honour of "civilisation." They drove away the population—that means the old and sick men, women and children—all other Serbs serving as soldiers and being in retreat; they drove the population away, took food, cattle, copper, warm clothes, carpets, covers, everything, and after this was done, allowed the people graciously to come back "to their homes and their customs," as the Kaiser declared. But to come how and where? Thousands died on the way back, thousands succeeded in coming back to their cold and breadless homes to die there; they are considered as the happier; and thousands fled with the Serbian troops into Albania and to the Mediterranean islands, where they died or are still dying from hunger, but because they died in freedom and not as slaves they are considered as the happiest.

We are beggars now. This is the first year in our history that we must pray to men for bread; until now we prayed only to God for daily bread, and God gave it to us abundantly. But we became beggars for bread only after the German civilisation showed itself to be a beggar, poor in moral, poor in truth and heart.

Now I will try to show you how the Serbian village


No universities, no schools, no libraries, no written literature and no lectures for five hundred years! Imagine such a people. That is the Serbian people.

The only men who could write—the priests; the only library—the memory; the only education—the mother; the only university—nature; the only historians—the blind bards; the only friend and comforter—God! Imagine such a people and call them—Serbs.

Imagine the English people for half a thousand years without schools, without education, without universities, without historians, authors, friends and comforters! I am sure it is difficult for you to imagine your country even without Shakespeare, and without Oxford and Cambridge scholarships and the British Museum, not to mention other things. It may be of great interest to a psychologist as well as to a historian to know what kind of mental activity a people shows who are deprived of all that we to-day consider as an indispensable need of daily life. What may such a people be doing? Well, when by such a people are meant the Eskimos, it is clear: they hunt, eat, talk and sleep. But when by such a people is meant a people of the European, Aryan race—what then? The Serbs are a European, Aryan race. What did they do? Three things—they thought, sang and hoped.

They thought. They thought about heaven and earth, about life and death, and man and animal, and about everything that affects human nature. They made comparisons and asked for the reason and purpose of everything. They drew their conclusions and expressed the results of their long observations. They thought a very, very long time before they uttered a short sentence. These sentences lived in the oral traditions, and have been transferred from one generation to another. These sentences are very like the Proverbs in the Bible, very like La Rochefoucauld or extracts and quotations from famous works. The Serbian sentences are striking. I have read a good deal by the great writers of Europe, but very often a popular Serbian saying strikes me more forcibly than a famous book.

Here is just one saying:

God is on the height, Satan is in the depth, man is in the middle. If God will, He can be above, below and in the middle. If Satan will, he can be below and in the middle. If man will, he can be like God everywhere, in the middle, or above or below.


A bird envied the serpent; thou knowest earth very well. The serpent envied the bird: thou knowest heaven very well. And both envied man: thou knowest heaven and earth. Man replied: "My knowledge and my ignorance make me equally unhappy."


Either snow or ice, or steam or fluid, water is always water. Either poor or rich, or ignorant or learned, man is always man.


Only a half-good man can be disappointed in this world. But a wholly good man never is disappointed because he never expects a reward for his good actions.

The Serbian people sang also. Sitting around the fire in the long winter nights, the Serbian peasants sang their glorious past, their dark present and their hopes for the future. There is a Serbian instrument called the gusle, more interesting than the Greek lyre, because more appropriate for the epic songs. It looks also like the Indian instrument tamboura. Well, as the ancient Greek bards sang their Achilles, using the lyre, and as the ancient Indian singers sang their Krishna with the help of the tamboura, so the Serbian epic singers accompanied with the gusle their songs on their hero of old, Marko. Marko was a historic person, a king's son. He was the never-weary champion of right and justice, the protector of the poor and oppressed, a believer in the victorious good, a man who left an impression on the coming generations like a lightning flash in the dark clouds. In every village house in Serbia there is a gusle, and almost in every family a good singer with the gusle. The blind bards sang on the occasion of the festival or a meeting.

The great Pitt, when once asked from whom he learned the English history so well, replied: "From Shakespeare." To the same question we Serbs can reply: "From our national poetry." It is very rare for a people in the mass to know their past as well as the Serbs know their own. The Serbs regard their history not so much as a dry science, but rather as an art, a drama, which must be told in a solemn language. They knew their history, and therefore they sang it; they sang it, and therefore they knew it better and better.

The Serbian men sang, but not only the men, the women sang as well. When the harvest was being gathered during July and August, the women and girls sang in the fields or under the fruit trees. In our country we have the sun abundantly, and the outdoor singing responds fully to the luxuriance of light. What shall I say then about our women's singing in the autumn in the dry and soft moonlight? It is the time of spinning on the distaff. The tired men go to bed, but the women sit down in a circle in the houseyard in the open place. They chat and they sing without stopping their spinning. They sing two and two, in duet, but so that a new duet is begun when the other finishes. This duet singing is not only in one family, but in many at the same time, in different parts of the village. Moonlight—we have wonderful clear and white moonlight in Serbia—silence, singing from every side, from every house, from girls, nightingales and other birds. The whole of the village is the stage, hundreds of singers, moonlight and open starry space—I am sure you would be much more fascinated by such a Serbian rustic opera than by many modern operas on a stage in London. And now—there rushed into Serbia:


and our singing stopped. Under the Turks the Serbian people sang. You can find in the British Museum ten big volumes of the Serbian national poetry which was composed during the time of the Turkish rule in Serbia. This rule was very hard and very dark indeed, but still we considered ourselves as the champions of the Cross against the Crescent, and we imagined that we should be the bulwark of Christian Europe, i.e. of Central Europe in the first place. Therefore we endured the struggle with the Turks, singing and hoping. And now—the two Christian Kaisers, with a fox from Sofia, have crushed Serbia more completely than she ever was crushed by the Turks. "Come back to your homes and your customs," so the Kaiser William invited the Serbian refugees.

"To your customs!" But, oh illustrissime Caesar, we could reply, our first and best custom is to sing. Tell us, how we could sing now? You know, oh Kaiser, because you preached the Bible also, you must know the Biblical complaints of the Israel of old: "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" You are now playing a real Babylonian role towards us Serbs, i.e. towards a people who fought for the Cross, who sang freedom and who were crucified for justice. You are not a better man than any peasant from the Serbian villages. Do you want a proof? The Serbian peasant can sing, and you cannot. You cannot sing, not because of your diseased throat, but because of your evil conscience. You stopped the singing in a country of songs, oh ill majesty! How could we now sing our songs while our homes are transformed into empty caves? How could we sing, seeing our bread in strangers' hands and cold stones in ours? How could we sing now, when all our past protests against you and all our dead are disturbed in their graves? You covered our country with sins and crimes, and it is not our custom to sing of sins and crimes, but of virtues. When will you show us your virtues? You have shown us until now only your iron and fire, your brutality and brutality, and again brutality and brutality,—and, did I say?—iron and fire. That is the essence of your religion and science, of your soul and glory. We will despise all that you brought into our country. Let us be silent, Sire, and you may continue to show your Mephistophelean civilisation, and after you have crushed all those who are weaker and smaller than you, Sire, open your lips and preach upon their ruin to your admirers: cantate Domino! But we will not sing after our custom of old in your presence. We prefer to be silent and to wait for God's judgment.

The Hidden Moral Treasures of the Serbian people are now shining, as always, throughout all the times of darkness and suffering.

You will remember from the beginning of the war all the declarations of the Serbian government about the Serbian loyalty to the end. Some among you might have thought: such declarations are dictated by political reasons. No, such declarations have been only a poor expression of what we all in Serbia thought and felt. Loyalty to friends, devotion to our pledged word, fidelity to the signed and unsigned treaties were always considered in Serbia as sacred duties in the conscience of the people. Our morale is not something that was learned in the schools—do not forget we had no schools for centuries—but rather an inherited treasure which every man was obliged to keep in great brilliancy. It is not a morale supported by learning, sophisms and quotations, it is an elementary power which is not a possession, but which has possession of everybody. Our Prime Minister uttered the other day these words: "Better to die in beauty than to live in shame!" Fifteen hundred years ago similar words were uttered on this island of yours by a knight of Beowulf's escort: "Death is better than a life of shame." Every child in Serbia thinks the same as our Prime Minister about the value of life and death.

"Better to die than" to live so and so, or than to do this or that—hundreds of the Serbian proverbs begin with those words. In proverbs is expressed our moral wisdom, in proverbs and poetry. Yet our proverbs are poetry as well. The morale is regarded not so much as a teaching, rather as poetry, like history. History and morality are things which shall be sung, history and morality are such dignified topics that they must be expressed in a dignified, solemn language. Poetry is the very essence of things. It is the most earnest thing in the world. That is our opinion.

The Serbs read the Bible very little, although they had the Bible in their own language and used it in divine service before you used it in the church of your own. The Bible was listened to in the church, but poetry at home. As Shakespeare can be called your second Bible, so, and still more, our national poetry for us has been indeed a second Bible. Our poetry has been our history, our moral, our beauty, our hopes, our education, our encouragement—our Bible. By our poetry, as by the Bible, the morale is not only taught but inspired. What is this morale, taught by Serbian poetry and proverbs, when uttered in a dry form?

"Dear God, we thank thee for all," that is the usual beginning of every poem.

Love? Love is better than justice.

Justice? Justice is better than injustice.

Injustice? It must be punished.

Suffering? It must be relieved.

Patience? That is the great virtue of the sufferers.

Honour? Better to die than to give up honour.

Dishonour? It means as much as death.

Mercifulness? It shines like the sun over the world.

A beggar? He puts your heart to the test.

Death? God is behind death and therefore death is no evil.

Prayer? It shall be used always, but it never helps unless we do our best.

Humility? It is always rewarded by love.

Fearlessness? It is commended very strongly.

Cowardice? It is repudiated and despised to the utmost.

Obedience? Youth must be obedient and respectful towards old people.

Chastity? Better to burn down a church than to take or to give away chastity.

Protection of the weak? Marko protected weak people and animals. That is a great merit.

Chivalry? Always; towards friends and enemies.

Work? Without work prayer does not help.

Freedom? Man is man only in living in freedom and in fighting for freedom.

Wealth? It is no virtue, and if it does not support virtue, it is a vice.

God? He is the Lord of the World and thy steady companion.

Such morals have been preached, yea, sung by our ancestors, and by ourselves. Certainly we have sinned often against these morals, but in our sins and in our virtues they have been always regarded as a standard of all that is good and beautiful.


Serbia sinned and repented her sins, and again sinned. Put yourselves, gentlemen, in the chair of a judge, and I will confess to you all the sins of Serbia. Serbia sinned and suffered. Her sins have been her hell, her sufferings—her purgatory. I don't pray you to forgive Serbia, but only to compare justly her sins with her sufferings. The Serbs sinned against all the ten commandments, it is true, but still regarded the ten commandments as the standard which is better than a nation's doings. Although the people said beautifully: "A grain of truth is better than a ton of lies," still the lie, like a parasite, had its nest in Serbia as elsewhere. Although the people said: "It is better to be blind with justice than to have eyes with injustice," still injustice had its seed, its growth and fruits among the same people. Although Cain's sin has been abhorred by the conscience of the Serbs, still this sin of taking the life of a brother has defiled the very soil of Serbia, which has been so much sanctified by the sufferings and unselfish sacrifices of her people. You will not find certainly in Serbia the refined vices which are practised in the shadow of great civilisations, but you will find quite enough great and small sins, which the Serbian conscience does not justify any more than yours.


Besides, I will confess to you one great sin of the Serbian people. It is an exaggerated love for independence. It is a virtue as every honest love is a virtue, but it becomes a sin if exaggerated. It is a brilliant quality like the sunshine in the time of fighting against the common enemy, but it is a sin in peace time when organised efforts for the social welfare are required. This spirit of independence, the independence from enemies as well as from friends, has considerably disturbed our social life and progress-during the last century. Now, by this greatest of our sins and greatest of our virtues as well, we Serbs differed chiefly from our neighbours. The people in Great Britain have been accustomed to look towards the Balkans as towards a country with one and the same spirit. This is a great mistake. There are chiefly two spirits: the Serbian and the Bulgarian, i.e. the spirit of independence and the spirit of slavery. The Serbian spirit resisted until the end stubbornly and tenaciously against the Turks conquering the Balkans five centuries ago. The Bulgarian spirit surrendered without any resistance. "The Kral of Bulgaria did not wait to be conquered, but humbly begged for mercy"; so writes an English historian.[3] The rebellious spirit of the Serbs arose first in the Balkan darkness a hundred years ago against the tyranny and the despotic wickedness of the Turkish rulers, and liberated the Serbian fatherland. The Bulgarian spirit waited until strangers came and liberated the Bulgarian country. Those strangers have been: Russians, Serbians, Roumanians and Mr. Gladstone. The Bulgarian spirit has been since 1878 under the rule of the German kings, as slavishly subordinate as it was for five hundred years under the rule of the Turkish viziers and pashas. It was pure ignorance which made some people exclaim some months ago: "It is King Ferdinand's war against Serbia and the Allies, and not the Bulgarian people's. The Bulgars will never fight against the Russians, their liberators." Yet the fact is and will remain: the Bulgarian people have only one thought, i.e. the thought of their ruler, be it Ferdinand or somebody else, and they have only one will, i.e. the will of their ruler. They will fight against the Russians as fiercely as they fought against the Turks yesterday, and against the French and British to-day, if it is only the plan and will of their ruler.

1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse